Wes Streeting has savaged Rishi Sunak over his work trip to California, accusing him of “eating out to help out in the United States”.
Speaking about challenges the hospitality sector faces because of an increasing number of people cancelling bookings as omicron spreads before Christmas, the shadow health secretary said Sunak should return to the UK to create “packages of support” for struggling businesses and implied he was having a jolly – referencing the summer 2020 scheme the chancellor enacted to encourage people to attend restaurants.
👀 It’s no good Rishi Sunak eating out to help out in California, says Labour
Shadow Health Sec @WesStreeting tell… https://t.co/sbecpewUP8
“Get yourself on a plane, get back home, get business leaders around a table with the trade unions to thrash out a package of support that people need.”
It comes as the chancellor faces criticism for being abroad in California while the hospitality and entertainment sector struggle. Spokespeople from his department have told publications the trip is a work trip on official business but some figures have suggested he should return to prioritise the fast-changing omicron situation and its impact on business.
After all, due to the spread of omicron, with chief medical officer Chris Whitty advising people to prioritise social contacts in the lead up to Christmas, trade body UKHospitality have predicted a 40 per cent plunge in takings – and twice that in London – while a former head of the Royal National Theatre warned of a crisis for the entertainment sector.
Despite this, the Treasury has said it has no plans to provide further financial support and has ruled out bringing back the furlough scheme.
Sunak has been widely criticised for this. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the Mirror: “The Chancellor is missing in action.
“The Chancellor should be stood next to the PM, announcing help to pay wages, save jobs and stop businesses going to the wall.”
Meanwhile, James Murray, Labour’s shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, also told the publication: “The Chancellor will have known for days that new guidance may come into place, but he still chose to leave our country’s businesses and workers to fend for themselves.
“It’s unbelievable that instead of putting British businesses first that he’s out of the country.”
A spokesperson from the Treasury reiterated to indy100:
“The chancellor is in the US on a long planned trip conducting government business.”
“He is in constant contact with staff back home and will be speaking to UK hospitality businesses today to hear their concerns.”